Dean of Diplomats Sees a Historic 'Cool' in Canada-U.S. Relations

By Panetta, Alexander | The Canadian Press, February 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

Dean of Diplomats Sees a Historic 'Cool' in Canada-U.S. Relations


Panetta, Alexander, The Canadian Press


Dean of diplomats sees historic Canada-US cool

--

WASHINGTON - The elder statesman among all former Canadian ambassadors to the United States says he's never seen the relationship between the two governments quite this cool.

When it comes to Canada-U.S. relations, Allan Gotlieb has a unique vantage point.

It's not just that his tenure in Washington goes farther back than any other living U.S. ambassador. It's that his own time in D.C. straddled two distinct eras -- the depth of the Trudeau-Reagan relationship to the height of the Mulroney-Reagan-Bush bond that culminated in a free-trade pact.

What he sees now is a relationship that's neither at its best, or worst, just most distant.

"I think the relationship is as cool as I ever remember," said the 86-year-old ex-diplomat, who wrote a pair of books about his Washington posting between 1981-89.

"I can't speak for the Diefenbaker era, I wasn't at the foreign ministry then. But it's as cool as I remember."

He was speaking in an interview this week, a day after President Barack Obama vetoed legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

In past disagreements, Gotlieb said there was hostility against the neighbour's policies. As an example, he said Trudeau's National Energy Program infuriated the U.S. administration. In his time there were also disputes about cross-border TV ads, softwood lumber and, until there was a deal, acid rain.

But in those days, he said, American presidents paid special attention to Canada-U.S. issues. Ronald Reagan even campaigned on the idea of a North American Accord in 1980.

Obama, meanwhile, hasn't made a bilateral visit to Canada since his first month in office. Gotlieb lays much of the blame on the president, not the prime minister.

"The Keystone project has been handled with considerable insensitivity. Our history has been characterized by ... a sensitivity to each other's interests," he said.

"And I think some of that is intrinsic in the style of Obama. He sees his legacy, maybe, as standing up to big oil and Canada's interests are secondary to the much bigger primary interest of Obama to go down in history as the man that stopped carbon from heating up our planet. …

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